The Serie A season began for Inter today when the club took on Chievo Verona at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi. Frank De Boer officially began his reign as Inter manager and it showed as his players seemed unsure as to what to do with the ball. This worked quite well for Chievo as they were able to sit back and allow Inter to have possession and then struck with two goals from Valter Birsa.
FDB surprised with his selection today. He told the press that Candreva couldn’t last the full 90 minutes which gave the impression that he would come off the bench, yet the Italian started the game over Ivan Perisic. The official lineup had Inter listed in a 4231 (Hadanovic, D’Ambrosio-Miranda-Ranocchia-Nagatomo, Medel-Kondogbia, Candreva-Banega-Eder, Icardi) but as the game progressed it turned out the players were lined up in more of a 352 with Danilo D’Ambrosio as the third centerback with Miranda and Andrea Ranocchia while Yuto Nagatomo and Antonio Candreva were the wide players.
I think it’s safe to say that outside of fears about how long it would take for players to implement De Boer’s tactics, the biggest concern going into today's match was how Ranocchia would play as the replacement for the suspended Jeison Murillo. We got our answer in the 4th minute and it was not good. The Italian “defender” took a poor touch and had to dive in on Riccardo Meggiorini (while just barely touching the ball) to prevent him from scoring. Ranocchia’s day didn’t get much better. In the 17th minute he had a shot from just in front of the goal saved when any sort of decent shot would’ve seen him score, and he missed a few more chances before the end of the match.
I shouldn’t really single out Ranocchia because really all of the starters had a bad day (ok yes he also nearly gave away a penalty but at this point picking on him is just low hanging fruit). Nobody really seemed sure of what to do with the ball and Chievo was more than happy to sit back in the first half and let Inter pass the ball between the defenders and midfielders. A lack of forward movement from Candreva, Ever Banega (who I felt was playing much too deep to be effective in a match like this), and Geoffrey Kondogbia plus a disappearing show from Eder (outside of a saved distance shot in the 16th minute) meant that Mauro Icardi was totally isolated and only really saw the ball when it was booted long in his general direction. Granted in the first half Chievo threatened to score even less than Inter, and it was clear that something needed to change when the halftime whistle was blown.
The second half saw Chievo take the lead four minutes in. Birsa picked up the ball in the area, dummied to take care of sliding challenges from D’Ambrosio and Ranocchia, and then slotted in past Samir Handanovic. In the 61st minute Ivan Perisic was sent on in place of Candreva, and the Croatian’s introduction saw more direct wing-play in a few minutes than what Candreva had done the entire time he had been on the pitch. Marcelo Brozovic and Rodrigo Palacio were both sent on for Ever Banega and Eder but Inter still was not able to really challenge Sorrentino. Then in the 81st minute Birsa put the game beyond Inter when he hit the ball from outside of the box into the bottom corner leaving Handanovic with no chance. Going down a second goal seemed to light a bit of fire in the Inter players and Palacio, Kondogbia, and Ranocchia all tried to grab a late consolation goal but were unable to prevent the final score from being 2-0.
This was a 90 minutes of my life I would love to get back. There really weren’t many positives to take from this match to be honest and if there’s one thing I want anybody to take from this match, it’s for the Inter directors to realize that they should’ve hired De Boer months ago, not 12 days before the start of the season. He will need time, lots of it based on what we say today, in order to get his new charges to understand his instructions. Unfortunately we might have to deal with a few more matchdays like this before we can really see the Inter side FDB has imagined. Oh and remember back when I had faint hope in my heart that Ranocchia could be helpful this season? Forget it, sign a new CB ASAP.